Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! – 1 John 3:1
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Ben Freudenburg present at a conference of Lutheran school principals. Ben is a colleague of mine, serving as the director of the Concordia Center for the Family at Concordia University, Ann Arbor. In the course of his presentation on the importance of families in schools, Ben used a term that has stuck in my head now for over a week: Extravagant Love. The type of love God has for us, and the kind of love we in turn should show to others.
His words struck a chord with me. I must admit that I have never paired those words together before. I’ve heard of showing love, expressing love, deep love, puppy love, unconditional love, brotherly love, lavishing love, 40-Love, Courtney Love, and Davis Love III, but never extravagant love.
So how could it be that a self-proclaimed logophile would have missed this one? Frankly, the two words never seemed to fit together. A Google search for examples of extravagance lead me to a reasonable location: Las Vegas. I read an article highlighting the ten most extravagant hotel rooms in Vegas. My definition of extravagance was confirmed: rooms costing anywhere from $3,000 to $40,000 a night featuring private elevators, 24 hour butlers, people to pack your suitcase for you, massage rooms, salons, bowling alleys, Jacuzzis overlooking the strip, and even a half-sized basketball court with a lockers, a scoreboard and cheerleaders. This showed me exactly what I already knew: Extravagance is wasteful and unnecessary spending. How could true love ever be wasteful or unnecessary? The love that I feel for my wife is not wasteful. The love I give to my children is not unnecessary. Thankfully, my familiarity with bewilderment helped me to seek God on this, and so I asked Him how love could be extravagant. My inquiry led me to two sources: the Bible and the dictionary.
Let’s start with the dictionary. Thanks to the good people at dictionary.com, I discovered that my definition was right, but that there were other definitions to consider. The one that jumped off the screen read, “going beyond what is deserved or justifiable.” It didn’t take long to understand that this was exactly what Ben meant by God’s extravagant love. Our sinful lives are deserving of condemnation. The ways we ignore, defy, and abuse God would more than justify any action He would take to distance Himself from a corrupt, fallen creation. But out of the unfathomable depths of His love for us comes an extravagant response; salvation through the death and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ. I love my son deeply. I want nothing but the best for him. I work daily to provide what I can to help him realize the destiny God has for him. So if I were asked today to sacrifice his life, I would say no. If asked to take his life for someone who has mistreated me from moment I first met them, I would say no along with many other colorful adjectives to emphasize my point. But that’s exactly what God did for us. That seems unnecessary. The loss of a loving Son to benefit undeserving people is an unjustifiable waste, and therefore, by definition, extravagant.
1 John 3:1 challenges us to “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God!” Reclaimed, refreshed, and restored, we are brought back to the God who created us, free from blemish and filled with the power of His Holy Spirit to serve Him by sharing with others the extravagant love that can only come from the throne of grace. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul leaves us with this reminder. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Give thanks to God today for His grace and for the extravagant love He has shown to us, that we can be called the greatest name imaginable: His.